Columbia University researcher Dr David Brenner said that there could be a "public health breakthrough" to fight novel coronavirus. Ultraviolet light kills flu viruses and could potentially kill the SARS-CoV-2. Dr David Brenner, director of the Center of Radiological Research at Columbia University had previously (2018) discovered that 'far ultraviolet C' (far-UVC) light can kill flu viruses that are airborne, not causing harm to human tissues.

His study focuses on UV light being a potential life-saver and a weapon that could halt the spread of viruses, as reported by ABC News.

UV light in lab
UV light in lab Columbia University

UV light is known to be a cleaning tool in hospitals, but harmful too as it can cause skin cancer, eye problems as it has high penetrating capacity and so, can enter our skin. The ultraviolet radiation that travels from the sun to earth, being dangerous, is filtered off by a protective layer covering the earth called the ozone layer.

However, narrow band of Ultraviolet light called as 'far-UVC light,' having wavelength around 220 nm, would be harmless to us as it can't penetrate the human cells. "It can't get through any of the living cells of our skin," said Brenner. "Because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them," Brenner had previously told.

Using the power of light

Novel Coronavirus
Novel Coronavirus

Presently the University is asking for crowd-funding, they have raised more than $55,000 out of the needed $75,000 in under three weeks for pilot studies for the goal of "Using the Power of Light". This year, Brenner, in trying to prepare for the upcoming flu season was testing the capacity of the far-UVC to kill airborne viruses. At the same time coronavirus outbreak happened, hence he started testing the far-UVC if it can kill novel coronavirus too. Two seasonal coronaviruses have already been tested.

After which, he said, "We saw we can kill 99% of the virus with a very low dose of far-UVC light." His team is presently testing strains of SARS-CoV-2. Brenner thinks he would get the same results for COVID-19 causing virus, like that of seasonal flu.

Waiting for FDA approval

Far-UVC light lamps are now in production while waiting for FDA approval. Researchers hope that it can be used in airports, train stations, and also in places like hospitals and schools. This would "decontaminate the air" very quickly when someone sneezes or coughs.

Illinois-based Eden Park Illumination is currently manufacturing these lamps to meet the demand. However, these lamps would mostly be available only after this year. Another manufacturer USHIO America said that it donated some of these, for using it in hospitals of Japan, according to the report.